In the past two years, Americans have become increasingly likely to describe the Democratic Party’s views as “too liberal” (49%), and less likely to say its views are “about right” (38%). Americans’ views of the Republican Party, on the other hand, have moderated slightly, with a dip in the percentage saying the GOP is too conservative from 43% last year to 40% today, and an increase in the percentage saying it is about right, from 34% to 41%.
The recent increase in perceptions of the Democratic Party as too liberal could be a response to the expansion in government spending since President Barack Obama took office, most notably regarding the economic stimulus and healthcare legislation.
The 49% of Americans who now believe the Democratic Party’s views are too liberal is one percentage point below the 50% Gallup measured after the 1994 elections, the all-time high inthe trend question first asked in 1992.
Since February 2008, the percentage calling the Democratic Party “too liberal” has increased by 12 points among independents and 8 points among Republicans, with little change among Democrats.
While significantly more Americans now view the Democratic Party as “too liberal” than “about right,” the net result of the changes in Americans’ perceptions of the Republican Party is that now about as many Americans say the GOP is “about right” as say it is “too conservative.” Even so, the percentage saying the Republican Party is too conservative remains near the upper range of what Gallup has measured since 1992.
In their efforts to attract widespread voter support in general elections, parties and their candidates generally want to avoid being perceived as too ideologically extreme. Indeed, a common strategy in U.S. electoral politics is for Republican candidates to try to paint their Democratic opponents as too far left, and Democratic candidates to try to convince voters that their Republican opponents are too far right. Currently, by 49% to 40%, more Americans perceive the Democratic Party as too liberal than say the Republican Party is too conservative, giving the Republicans an advantage in an important election year. With Election Day more than four months away, however, the Democratic Party has an opportunity in the 2010 campaign to try to alter voters’ perceptions of the party’s ideology.